Nathan Leek worked hard to make gains during pandemic downtime and two years after making the jump from AA to AAA hockey, all that effort is paying off.
The 17-year-old forward from Alliston, Ont., led the OMHA's ETA Hockey League with 40 goals and 72 points in 43 games for the U18 Barrie Jr. Colts this season, emerging as a dominant force.
“His game is tenfold,” said Jr. Colts coach Kevin Thompson, marvelling at Leek’s jump from a shy, reserved kid with a hard shot and quick release into a special player. “Coming in as a first-year AAA player, he’s become arguably one of the top players in less than two years. He’s faster, his shot is harder, and he’s become a dominant player on the ice, only going to get better.”
Leek’s resiliency in the face of previous cuts at the AAA level and his refusal to settle is essential in that regard, as he seized opportunities to improve.
“The team I tried out for every year was really good, but I knew I had the capabilities of playing at that level,” said Leek. “That COVID off-season, I said every day we’re going to work out and shoot pucks and just get better.”
Leek’s father, Adam, noted that development in all aspects of his play has been common over the years and even in the midst of his best season, he didn’t stop seeking improvements.
“He loves to watch video after games to see certain plays and break them down to improve and get better at both ends of the ice,” said Adam. “I always say it's his bus, I'm just driving. Meaning it's up to him. I know how much he wants to play at whatever level he can achieve. I see how much work he puts in, the amount of shots, the amount of sweat during workouts.”
The consistency needed to fulfil the responsibility of helping to carry the Jr. Colts, who led the league at 27-4-4, is a product of Leek’s confidence.
“You can definitely feel the pressure, and you take it upon yourself which can be a positive or negative thing,” said Leek. “It comes naturally, something out of my game that I can do.”
Where that leads Leek is uncertain.
He’s optimistic about his future in the game and would like to keep on moving up.
“I’m taking it one day at a time, but I would like to be playing at the highest level,” said Leek. “I know I really want to go Division One for NCAA, so just hopefully finding that good fit for me and finding somewhere I’ll be successful next.”
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Kyle Ramnarine is a student in the Sport Journalism post-grad program at Centennial College. Follow him on Twitter @RamnarineKyle